The following address was given by veteran Jim Cobb as part of the Memorial Day observance of American Legion Jackson-Silver Post #68:
Commander Bickford, Auxiliary President Hakala, Fellow Legionnaires and Friends, Good Morning and thank you all for coming today.
This is the day we come together to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this incredible country.
We commemorate their valor, loyalty and commitment to all of us and to all who came before.
The day these brave men and women joined the armed forces, they made a promise to keep us safe.
Safe from those who wish to do us harm.
Safe from tyranny and oppression,
and safe from those who wish to steal our freedoms….
There have been many conflicts abroad, but with our forces as a deterrent, it has been 203 years since there has been major foreign invasion on United State’s soil. I’d say these brave service members kept that promise… and then some.
As a 23-year veteran of the United States Army, I could not be more proud to call every single one of those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines brothers and sisters in arms.
As I was preparing for today, I came across this short tribute written by Jocko Willink, a Retired Navy SEAL Officer and I thought it was most fitting.
I am the fallen Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine.
I am the one that held the line.
Sometimes I volunteered. Sometimes I went because I was told to go.
But when the nation called – I answered.
In order to serve, I left behind the family, friends, and freedom that so many take for granted.
Over time, I used different weapons: a sword, a musket, a bayonet, a rifle, a machine gun.
Often, I marched into battle on foot – countless miles – across whole continents. I had little water and even less food. But it did not matter. We had a job to do.
Other times, I rode to battle on horseback or in wagons; sometimes on trains; later in tanks or Jeeps or Humvees.
In early wars, my ships were made of wood and powered by the wind.
Later they were made of steel and powered by diesel fuel or the atom.
I even took to the air and mastered the sky in planes, helicopters, and jets.
The machines of war evolved and changed with the times.
But remember that it was always me – the warrior – that had to fight our nation’s enemies.
I fought at Lexington and Concord as our nation was born.
I crossed the Delaware on Christmas day in 1776. Freedom was on our side.
I defended The Chattahoochee river in the War of 1812. I would stand again.
In the Civil War, I fought with my brothers – and against my brothers – at Gettysburg and Shiloh and Bull Run. I learned that we must never again divide.
In World War l, I marched on the Marne and held the line at Belleau Wood. The War to end all wars, they called it. I just called it hell.
In World War ll, I fought everywhere: from the beaches of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, to the sands of Iwo Jima and the hell of Guadalcanal. I stood against tyranny and kept darkness from consuming the world.
In Korea I landed at Inchon and broke out of the Chosin Reservoir. They called it the forgotten war – but I never forgot.
In Vietnam, I went and I fought in the Mekong Delta and at Ia Drang and Khe Sanh and Hamburger hill. Some say my country waivered. But I did not waiver. Ever.
In the recent past I have fought in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and other desperate places around the globe.
And finally I have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Baghdad, Fallujah, and Ramadi.
In Kunar, Helmand, and Kandahar.
As technology advanced, I used night vision goggles and global positioning systems and drones and lasers and thermal optics.
But it was still me, a human being, that did the work.
It was me that patrolled up the mountains or across the desert or though the streets.
It was me that suffered in the merciless heat and the bitter cold.
It was me that went out, night after night, to confront our nation’s enemies and confront evil face to face.
It was me.
Remember me. I was a warrior.
But also remember:
That I was not only a warrior.
I was not just a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine.
Remember also: that I was a son, a brother, a father.
I was a daughter, a sister, a mother.
I was a person – like you – a real person with hopes and dreams for the future.
I wanted to have children.
I wanted to watch my children grow up.
I wanted to see my son score a touchdown or shoot the winning basket.
I wanted to walk my daughter down the aisle.
I wanted to kiss my wife again.
I wanted to grow old with her – and be there to hold her hand when life grew hard.
When I told her I would be with her until the end – I meant it.
When I told my children I would always be there for them – I meant it.
But I gave all that away.
All of it.
On that distant battlefield, on some god-forsaken patch of dirt, amongst the fear and the fire and the bullets.
Or in the sky above enemy territory filled with flak.
Or on the unforgiving sea where we fought against the enemy and against the depths of the abyss.
There, in those awful places: I held the line.
I did not waiver and I did not hesitate.
I: The Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine.
I stood my ground and sacrificed my life – my future, my hopes, my dreams.
I sacrificed everything – for you.
This Memorial Day, remember me: the fallen warrior.
And remember me not for my sake – but for yours.
Remember what I sacrificed so you can truly appreciate the incredible treasures you have: Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.
You have the joys of life, the joys that I gave up, so that you can relish in them:
A cool wind in the air.
The gentle spring grass on your bare feet.
The warm summer sun on your face.
Family. Friends. And freedom.
Never forget where it all came from.
It came from sacrifice: The supreme sacrifice.
Don’t waste it. Don’t waste any of your time on this earth.
Live a life that honors the sacrifice of our fallen heroes.
Remember them always. And make every day… Memorial Day.
What truthful statements, and while they are great and truthful, for some of us, they may be more abstract.
It isn’t easy to relate to the solomness of the occasion if one doesn’t know or never knew a member of the armed forces killed in action. It is easy to get caught up in the BBQs and family gatherings of the long weekend if you are at a loss to put faces with names. Today I’d like to share with you a few names that I know personally. Names and faces that are forever seared into my memory and weigh heavy on my heart.
Private First Class Raymond Faulstich, Private First Class Torey Dantzler, and Sergeant Tatjana Reed.
Private First Class Raymond Faulstich was a 24 year old father of two. He decided to join the Army to better support his young family with a steady income and a job he could be proud of. He was sent to Iraq in 2004 for a yearlong deployment. His job as a truck driver in a transportation company put him out on the dangerous roads of Iraq most every day. He quickly built a reputation as an excellent driver who was cool under the pressure of operating in a combat zone. He was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy toward the Baghdad airport when they were attacked by insurgents that used an I.E.D. to slow the convoy, and then engaged in full force with Rocket Propelled Grenades and small arms. He had the convoy commander in his truck and knew the only defense to such an attack was leading the way out of the kill zone as fast as possible. He sped out of the area with the other 6 trucks following behind. He stopped the truck at a checkpoint about two miles down the road so the commander could assess any damage. The commander discovered his own driver, Ray, had been hit by enemy fire. Ray died before he could leave the driver’s seat. He had led the convoy to safety without regard for himself. His wife was presented his posthumous Silver Star for Valor at his funeral. While speaking with her after the services, she said she was very proud of her husband’s service and that if given a choice, she knew Ray would do it all over again. He knew the risks and he died doing exactly what he wanted to do.
Sergeant Tatjana Reed was born in Germany and moved to the United States as a teenager when her mother married a Soldier stationed in Germany. Her new step-father became her hero and she wanted to follow in his footsteps by becoming a US Army Soldier. She enlisted at the age of 24 and in 1998, became a United States Citizen, something she always talked about. In 2002, she was assigned to the 66th Transportation Company in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Private First Class Torey Dantzler was born and raised in a small town in central Louisiana. He joined the Army at the age of 20, not long after 9/11 telling his mother he wanted to serve his country and make her proud. After completing his training as a truck driver, he was sent to the 66th Transportation Company in Kaiserslautern, Germany. His squad leader was Sergeant Tatjana Reed. They and the rest of the 66th Transportation Company, were deployed to Iraq in early 2004. Their mission was to haul food and other supplies to the Soldiers stationed in various places throughout Iraq. When the roadside bomb went off, Torey Dantzler’s truck took the brunt of the blast on the driver’s side where he sat. He died instantly. Sergeant Tatjana Reed, who was in the passenger seat, was blown out of the truck. She died waiting for the MEDEVAC helicopter to arrive. Her final words were to send her love to her own young daughter. At her funeral, her daughter sat beside her mother’s hero. As I presented her flag to her tearful family, I was not met with bitterness or anger. Instead her family thanked each and every one of us for bringing Tatjana home. That was the hardest flag I have ever had to present..
It was at that moment that I finally understood why there are stories that veterans just don’t talk about, but I wanted to share those stories with you.
That is my Memorial Day and my every day. These were Soldiers I served with, knew personally, and think of daily. They and numerous others died while serving our country and sacrificed themselves for the pursuit of freedom and the greater good. They fought in different battles and at different times but they all died for us. All the combat veterans you see here today could tell you similar stories. They stand here in honor of those they knew and those they did not.
So when you see that Veteran, with a tear rolling down their cheek during taps or as the National Anthem plays, know that that is a tear of respect, of honor, of remembrance, and of hope. The hope that the life they have lived is worthy of the gift they have been given. The gift of one more day to live to its fullest in honor of all those whose sacrifice was greater than any other.
Please join me in a moment of silence as we all remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.